With a 270-pound weight latched around her neck, Mahassen Hala Fattouh Paiva took a deep breath. After some final words of encouragement, she raised it skyward and dashed into her coaches’ arms. The Beaufort County resident and Lebanon’s first-ever female Olympic weightlifter just pulled off something extraordinary.
Fattouh Paiva put together a dazzling performance Sunday in the women’s 76kg event in Tokyo, finishing in ninth place with a score of 217kg and setting her own personal record in a spectacular 124kg clean and jerk.
The 31-year-old executed her first two lifts of the snatch perfectly. After some nerves and hesitation to start her initial attempt, Fattouh Paiva easily converted at 88kg before a slow and steady lift at 93kg made her 2-for-2. She nearly did it again at 97kg, but she couldn’t find that extra gear to finish it off as the weight dropped to the floor.
The Lowco resident used the intermission to refocus and push herself towards her goal, and a determined Fattouh Paiva delivered. She made it look easy on her initial try of the clean and jerk, nailing her opening lift of 112kg before conquering a menacing 118kg for her fourth successful attempt of the day. But she had her sights set even higher. In her final lift of the competition, Fattouh Paiva chose what would be a personal best of 124kg.
With her coaches cheering her on, she made her way back to the stage for her final act of the competition. The first Lebanese female weightlifter to compete in the Olympics put both arms on the 270-pound bar and raised it up to her neck. With a cry from her coaches to “trust her legs,” Fattouh Paiva summoned all she had left, bent her knees, and finished the job. When the buzzer sounded, she dropped the weight and leapt in celebration. It wasn’t a medal, but she walked away from the stage a true champion.
A dual citizen of the United States and Lebanon, Fattouh Paiva began the sport of weightlifting in 2004. Spending time in both South Carolina and Florida, she grew her craft from Team Beaufort coach Ray Jones, who also trains fellow Olympic weightlifter CJ Cummings. After her stellar performance at the Games, Fattouh Paiva plans to visit Lebanon with hopes of helping to grow the sport in the country she represented in Tokyo.
Nelsi Patricia Dajomes Barrera claimed gold in the 76kg event, as the Ecuadorian star posted an incredible 263kg while going a perfect 6-for-6. American Katherine Elizabeth Nye earned the silver with a mark of 249kg, and Mexico’s Aremi Fuentes Zavala took bronze at 245kg.
By Wes Kerr